The Common Good

Missing from Wall Street's Calculations: Sin

Driving home from Seattle, the rain was both daunting and beautiful. So was our immediate future, as our son will have to have some fairly scary surgery soon. In this light I read an essay in The Wall Street Journal on how the field of economics is in turmoil. The older models of how efficient the markets are failed to predict the current economic mess, and the theorists are scrambling to find models that would have predicted the problem and will hopefully predict future economic problems.

This is a major fall for economics after the triumphant stance of recent years, when many economists ventured out of Wall Street to provide statistical answers to all sorts of areas outside of the economic field. They had the golden apple of knowledge that would give endless answers of good and evil for us all. And boy did they take a big bite out of it. The years leading up to our current economic mess saw books like Freakonomics, or my favorite example of the arrogance of the field, More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics. Yes, book argued that chaste and monogamous people should have more partners in order to make the larger pool of multiple partners safer. Suddenly, their world came crashing down. Bankers blinded by short-term goals created a situation that led us to the brink of collapse. The numbers failed to add up, and they had to deal with an angel of reality hold a flaming sword preventing them from entering their garden of former brilliance.

Underpinning the older model was the idea that people always make the most rational choices available to them. Humans are inherently rational, they argued. Given them better information will, in the long term, lead to better choices. The idea that humans are sinners was left out of their models. That greed could blind someone into making disastrous choices never entered their calculations. We Christians could have told them their model would lead to a crash. Humans have a dark force that leads them to ruin. It makes them come up with games like credit default swaps to game the system, even if it corrodes the system to point of destruction. When the party is now, why worry about the hangover?

That we want to be like gods, controlling the world as masters of the universe, was left out of their equations. The truth is we are not in control of the world -- we are not gods, and we need a savior to grant us love. I look at my infant son who will soon have his brain and eye socket operated on, and I know the truth of my own weakness and my need of God.

portrait-ernesto-tinajero1Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.

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